The Maintenance & Engineering Department has many divisions, including specialized Teams responsible for maintaining certain parts of the airplane. These Teams work in what is called a "shop." Examples of this are the Engine Shop, the Coffee Shop, and today we take an in-depth look at the workings of the Slide Shop.The six Employees in the Slide shop, all AMTs-, Aircruiser- and Goodrich-certified, are responsible for repairing, inspecting, and packing the Emergency Slides housed inside the doors of our aircraft. Currently, Southwest has two brands of slides: Aircruiser and Goodrich. Although they differ in price and some minor maintenance procedures, the slides follow the same general maintenance routine. When a slide arrives in the "shop" it follows a multi-step process, captured in the attached time-lapse video. Slides younger than 15 years visit the "shop" for inspection every three years. Slides older than 15 years are tested every year. First, the slide is "flat-fired," or expanded. Then it is "over-pressured," where AMTs inflate the slide with 4.8 pounds of air pressure—more than double its regular capacity. In order for the slide to pass inspection, it must hold this pressure for anywhere from five to 15 minutes. After checking the relief valve, the slide is allowed to stabilize, or rest, for an hour. Then the real test begins. Each slide must sit inflated with the regulation two pounds of air pressure for two to four hours (depending on the brand). When assessing whether a slide has passed or failed, AMTs use a formula that considers several variables, including ambient temperature and barometric pressure. When the slide passes inspection, the folding and packing begins. The deflated, folded slide is packed into the boxes (called valises) that are in aircraft doors. Then, depending on the brand, it is either attached to a high powered vacuum called a "suck box" for an hour or baked in a convection oven at 125 degrees for twelve hours to compact it by removing all the air from the slide. This part of the process reminds me of packing for a long trip when one would use industrial strength Space Bags. Once all the air is removed from the slide, the hour-long process of folding begins. Once folded and inside the valise, a pin is inserted to prevent the slide from expanding. During installation, an AMT must remove the pin and complete the installation process within 30 minutes or the slide will begin to fill with air and expand outside of its valise. If that time period is exceeded, the slide returns to the shop for re-packing. Many thanks to James S., Jerry W., and the entire slide shop Team in DAL for their expertise. Together, the six AMTs in the DAL Slide Shop have more than 130 years experience in aircraft maintenance.
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For the past three years, I have had the privilege of watching the magic of the Adopt-A-Pilot program from a front-row seat. I have received letters from grateful teachers, who are amazed that a Corporation would take the time and effort to provide materials and volunteers to come to their classroom free of charge. Letters have come from Pilots who have been touched by the innocence and lack thereof displayed by the 11-year old students with whom they interact as Adopted Pilots. And yes, I have received letters from parents, expressing joy because their child came home from school to report that they had glimpsed the dream of a career that might lift them out of their community. Each of these is a reason to celebrate the real impact volunteers who care can make.
Today, Southwest Airlines celebrates the official takeoff the 14 th season of Adopt-A-Pilot®. More than 1,400 classrooms across the country will “Adopt” Southwest Airlines Pilots through a program that leads students through science, geography, math, writing, and other core subjects, all based in aviation-related activities. Students also will research careers, develop life values, and realize the importance of staying in school.
The 2011 program has more than 800 Southwest Pilots volunteering as Adopted Pilots, a program record! During the four-week long curriculum, Pilots volunteer their time in participating classrooms and correspond from the “road” via e-mail and postcards. Classrooms chart the Pilot’s course on an official United States route map and complete lessons related to the Pilot’s monthly flying schedule. To learn more about the program visit www.southwest.com/adoptapilot.
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This year the Adopt-A-Pilot (AAP) program, which places Southwest Airlines Pilots in fifth grade classrooms where they teach curriculum focusing on goal setting and real world learning, sponsored a national contest called “My AAP Story” which invited students and teachers to tell Southwest Airlines about their personal experience with the Adopt-A-Pilot program. Adult and student participants wrote essays in hopes to win $150 cash scholarship for their classrooms and a class photo in the December issue of Spirit magazine. We received nearly 100 entries. Among them was our adult entry winner, written by Sharlene Duerksen, Teacher, Gifted and Talented program, West Canyon Elementary School, Caldwell, Idaho. Ms. Duerksen wrote to us about how her Adopt-A-Pilot program has grown over the past several years. In addition to the traditional AAP program, Ms. Duerksen, adopted Pilot, Captain Herb Lewis, and the fifth grade students of West Canyon add a unit to the curriculum on Community outreach. As part of this lesson, the class reaches out to the clients of their local Ronald McDonald House and provides them with cameras and journals handmade by West Canyon students. Ms. Duerksen writes, “We educated the class on the purpose of this organization and were able to tour the house, present our gift, and instill in these kids the importance of ‘giving back’ and ‘giving forward.'” Hanna Mix, a fifth grader from Westchester Intermediate in Chesterton, Indiana, penned the winner in the student category. She wrote about her adopted Pilot, Captain Ken McAloon. In her words, “Captain McAloon was very good at explaining things in fifth grade terms… (He) taught me a lot of things: but the major thing he taught me was to go for the gold, and don’t stop until you get it.” Hannah, by George, I think you’ve got it! Thank you to all who entered their AAP stories. We LUV hearing stories of our Employees reaching out in their communities. We understand that each of our 35,000 students and 1,200 classrooms experience Adopt-A-Pilot in a unique way. These stories remind us that Southwest and our fabulous Pilots are making a positive difference in our communities with the AAP program. We believe it will continue to be a platform for students’ positive growth and development—as well as a way for Southwest to give back, give forward, and go for the gold. For more info on AAP, visit www.southwest.com/adoptapilot or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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They say everything comes alive in the spring—and that is true for the Adopt-A-Pilot (AAP) program, as well. During the spring months, Southwest Airlines Pilots go into classrooms across the country and inspire students to help them identify and plan to achieve their highest aspirations. The time these Pilots spend in classrooms is a real contribution to the communities. Often, adopted Pilots are among the few outside role models with whom students interact during their school year. I have the privilege of receiving the feedback about the great contributions our Pilots make. Nearly every day during the spring, letters and e-mails saluting the dedication and professionalism of adopted Pilots cross my desk. As I was preparing a blog for National Volunteer Week, an e-mail came my way from Desert Harbor Elementary School informing Southwest that one of our Pilots, Captain Tom Grosshans, was selected as one of the Volunteers of the Year for Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) in Peoria, Arizona. Captain Tom was nominated for this honor by the fifth grade teacher who has worked with him through AAP for the past six years. “Tom brings an amazing gift of high-interest learning to our classroom. (He brings) opportunities for students to talk about career choices and dreams for their future as well as emphasizing how important education and training are to reach those goals….Captain Tom is a true treasure. We appreciate his time, energy, enthusiasm, laughter and love for teaching children. His consistent reminder to our students that future career dreams are possible through education, training, goal setting and perseverance is truly inspirational.” As a result of this nomination, Captain Tom will be recognized today by the PUSD Governing Board for his outstanding contribution to the school district. Southwest Employees are consistently recognized for their outstanding contributions to our communities. No doubt, Tom is an extraordinary volunteer who has made a positive impact on students. But the truth is -- Southwest Airlines has many volunteers who are recognized within their communities for their outstanding service -- this is just the most recent great volunteer story that came across my desk before National Volunteer Week!
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